Celebrating Marriage in the AMS

Congratulations on Your Recent Engagement!

Part of Creation before the Fall (see Genesis 1–2), “the intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent” (Gaudium et Spes, Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 48). The consent that a man and a woman exchange in the celebration of marriage unites them in faithful and mutual love. This love is open to life and serves as a way to respond to God’s call to holiness. Together, as you begin the process of marriage preparation, take the time to pray and discern God’s will. While there are certainly preparations to consider for the celebration of the day of your wedding, good marriage preparation lasts a lifetime.


Marriage Preparation

Effective 2 February 2015, the Archbishop for the Military Services has established that the period of preparation prior to the celebration of marriage in the Archdiocese is six months. As the outline of the process below indicates, much work must be done in this time.  (For access to the Marriage Preparation forms, please visit the Forms tab of the AMS website.)

General Process for Celebrating Marriage in the AMS

1. Schedule an appointment with your AMS priest
2. Pre-Marital Catechesis
3. Introductory Natural Family Planning Session
4. Preparation for the Liturgical Celebration of Marriage
5. Celebration of Marriage

Who Can Celebrate Marriage in the AMS?

The celebration of marriage is entrusted to the pastor of either Catholic party (Code of Canon Law, c. 530, n. 4). Indeed, the permission of a Catholic party’s proper pastor is required if the marriage will not take place in his parish (Code of Canon Law, c. 1115). For subjects of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, the proper pastor is the AMS priest assigned to their military installation.

If you or your intended spouse is a subject of the AMS, then you can begin to prepare for your marriage by contacting the AMS priest assigned to the military installation where you serve.

If you and your intended spouse are not subjects of the AMS but would like to celebrate your marriage in a chapel on a military installation, then you must contact the pastor of your civilian parish to begin marriage preparation according to the process established in that civilian diocese.

At the initial meeting with the civilian priest, please inform him of your desire to celebrate the marriage on a military installation.

Note that access to military installations is restricted. Some connection with the military is required for non-AMS Christian faithful to celebrate marriage in the installation chapel.

General Process for Celebrating Marriage in the AMS

This outline contains the basic elements and steps that form the period of Catholic marriage preparation. The AMS priest preparing you for marriage can provide more details.

1. Schedule an appointment with your AMS priest

As soon as possible after you and your intended spouse have decided to marry, contact the Catholic priest at your military installation to begin the marriage preparation process. At this initial meeting, the priest will:

  • Give an overview of the process to marry in the AMS.
  • Ensure that each party is free to marry (i.e., each party has never been in a marriage before or, if married before, that the proper ecclesiastical process has been completed). Before a party can enter marriage in the Catholic Church, it must be determined that he or she is free to marry and free in marrying. The priest or another pastoral minister will interview each party separately, completing a document that the party will sign. Catholics and other Christians will be asked to submit recent original copies of their baptism certificates (with notations). Also, a witness for each party (e.g., a family member or close friend) will be interviewed to testify that the party is free to marry and free in marrying. Finally, and if needed, a petition for any dispensations and/or permissions will be completed and sent to the AMS in Washington, DC.
  • Explain the Church’s understanding of marriage.
  • Explain the process of having the FOCCUS facilitator assign the pre-marriage FOCCUS inventory via e-mail to include collecting the e-mail address of each party.
  • Explain the options for the catechetical formation for marriage.
  • Collaborate to set the date and place of the marriage.

2. Pre-Marital Catechesis

Just as with other sacraments in the Church, Catholic and non-Catholic parties preparing for marriage in the Church are to be formed in Christian marriage. Several options are available for this catechesis. Be sure to meet with the FOCCUS facilitator, which is usually the AMS priest, to review the results of the FOCCUS inventory prior to engaging in one of these options.

  • Weekends for the Engaged (consult with the Catholic priest about options in your area)
  • Weekly Marriage Preparation Sessions (consult with the Catholic priest about which sessions are available in your area prior to registering)
  • Online Marriage Preparation (consult with the Catholic priest prior to choosing this option)

Depending on the locations of the parties, one type of formation program may work better than the others. Your AMS priest can help you choose the program best suited to your situation.

3. Introductory Natural Family Planning Session

The Archbishop requires that all couples celebrating marriage in the AMS participate in a one-hour introductory session on Natural Family Planning (NFP) with a certified facilitator. This requirement is met when both parties participate in the one-hour session either in-person or online.

An in-person NFP session can be arranged with the assistance of the AMS priest. He will have a sense of NFP opportunities with trained facilitators in the local area and can put you in contact with those area facilitators.

An online NFP session can be beneficial for engaged parties separated by distance, e.g., when one party is deployed.

Having taken the one-hour introductory session couples are encouraged to take the full NFP course.

4. Preparation for the Liturgical Celebration of Marriage

In the weeks prior to the marriage, the priest or deacon assisting at the wedding will meet with the parties to prepare the liturgical celebration. Additional information about the Order of Celebrating Matrimony is available on the For Your Marriage website.

5. Celebration of Marriage

Enjoy your wedding day, rejoicing in the Lord with your family and friends.

Learn more about catechesis for marriage on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops web site, For Your Marriage available en espanol, Por Tu Matrimonio.